Monthly Archives: January 2013

#11. try a type of cuisine i have been too afraid to try

Growing up – I lived off of four food groups: pizza, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs and ice cream. My mom has never been an adventurous eater (she’s the woman ordering Thousand Island dressing at a five-star restaurant) and my dad was a professional chef for more than ten years. So I grew up with a lot of conflicting arguments about what to eat. My mom would just be happy if I ate Hamburger Helper since I was such a pain in the ass to deal with and my dad would pull out his hair hoping the day would come when his daughter would branch out from overly processed foods and dive into the culinary world of possibility. After years of trying, it was safe to say my dad eventually gave up hope and doomed the rest of my future to the blue boxes of Kraft and dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets.

My reaction to anything other than mac n' cheese growing up.

My reaction to anything other than mac n’ cheese growing up.

Slowly but surely however I began to grow more curious about what food could offer and I started branching out but still staying in my comfort zone of what I knew – Italian food. Sundried tomatoes replaced ketchup, prosciutto took the place of bologna and I finally found some green on my plate in the form of basil. I was proud of myself but at the age of 23, I realized my knowledge of food was still pretty limited in scope. The only Mexican food I had ever tried was salsa and quesadillas, I considered French food wine and macarons and I had never even tried a single bite of Chinese.

Which is why I put try a new cuisine I’ve been too afraid to try on the 213 in 2013 list. And to be honest, it wasn’t one of the things I was most excited to cross off. I already feel uneasy about whenever I get out of my comfort zone, and typically I like to leave my taste buds out of any new adventures I decide to embark on. So on Sunday, I decided Mike and I were going to use a Groupon and check out Thai food – a first for the both of us. I had every intention of going, even though I couldn’t understand 90% of the menu and the parts that I did made my gag reflex act up. But I wanted to jump into this culinary adventure head first and thought, what’s more adventurous than Thai?

Sometimes you need to take baby steps when trying new things. Mine were in the form of general tsos chicken.

Sometimes you need to take baby steps when trying new things. Mine were in the form of General Tsos chicken.

But to my surprise – the man who eats anything and everything – and I literally mean ANYTHING, was too afraid to go. And I quote, Mike’s reaction to my plans: “Uhm… gross.” Suddenly I began to doubt if I was capable of going through with it. I mean, if he couldn’t do it – there’s no way I could. That’s when he suggested Chinese. He called it “a way to get my feet wet instead of diving into the deep end without knowing how to swim.” I know that was really just code for “I really want Chinese and need an excuse to get it.”

So I figured what the hell, I’ve gone my entire life too afraid to try it despite friends and family members telling me I was crazy to live life without experiencing such deliciousness. I left the ordering to him since I was clueless as to what I’d like – my only rule: get chicken. So he ordered a spring roll, teriyaki chicken skewers, general tsos and lo mein. Twenty minutes later the delivery man showed up and my livingroom smelled like the streets of Chinatown.

This is my "I'm terrified to try this but get a picture of me looking like I enjoy it" face.

This is my “I’m terrified to try this but get a picture of me looking like I enjoy it” face.

He opened up the containers. Everything was brown. It looked so ugly and monochromatic and I thought “there’s no way in hell I’m going to like this.” But he looked so excited (and nervous I might add) for me to try everything so I grabbed the fork and tentatively grabbed a piece of chicken with some lo mein.

Here goes nothing.

I winced as I started to chew, expecting for it to taste as awful as it looked but to my complete and utter surprise and amazement, it tasted absolutely delicious. I started taking bites out of everything. Oh there’s cabbage in this spring roll? Well, it’s delicious! Teriyaki sauce? Where have you been all my life!? My eyes grew larger as I started scarfing down anything I could get my hands on. While I was completely over the moon with how happy I was to discover a new type of cuisine that I enjoy, I also felt a pang of regret for going more than 20 years without realizing it, all because I was too afraid to try.

What a wise one you are, oh fortune cookie.

What a wise one you are, oh fortune cookie.

This project is making me realize very quickly that you can miss out of some of life’s greatest pleasures if you live in fear. Whether it’s as something as small as trying a new type of cuisine or taking a leap of faith and jumping out of an airplane (stay tuned for April!), you can never know all that life has to offer unless you give it a try.

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#10. go to a comedy show

I’ve never made it a secret that I hate winter. I hate it with every bone in my body. This is mainly because: I hate pants. I hate the cold. I hate the lack of sun and ugly, dead, bare trees. So when winter rolls around I usually hibernate. I stock up on a few extra bottles of bubbly, become Redbox’s number one customer with my excessive movie rentals and live only in fuzzy pajamas and funny socks.

But with 213 things to cross off in 365 days, I don’t have the option of being a lazy bum for a quarter of the year. So I put on my furry boots, zipped my jacket up extra tight and decided I was going to make the best of the yucky, winter weather this weekend. I started Saturday morning with a boozy brunch with one of my new friends at Pulpo, a Spanish tapas restaurant with all you can eat and drink for $25. I’m immediately sold on anything involving bottomless booze, so the 45-minute metro ride was well worth it. The food wasn’t anything remarkable but the constant flow of mimosas helped set me up for the rest of the day.

I could have eaten 100 more of those pancakes.

I could have eaten 100 more of those pancakes.

Mike scooped me up from brunch once he was finished work and we started to make our way over to Temple Hill’s Roller Skating Palace to cross off my goal of going to a roller rink so I could spend a few hours pretending like I’m whirling around at Studio 54. Roller rinks are no longer the cool, hip places they once were in the 70s. Now they are just sad, dingy rundown warehouses situated between pawn shops and liquor stores. And Temple Hill Roller Rink was no different. We rolled up and saw that there was a line of sugar-induced children starting to wrap around the building. I immediately started shaking my head because the thought of being crammed on a roller rink with hundreds of kids hopped up on Mountain Dew made me want to run into highway traffic. So we decided we’re going back for “Adult skate” on Thursday. Stay tuned.

With our rollerskating plans now a bust, we had an entire evening to fill. I jumped on Groupon to see if there was anything to do that we could only pay half price for, and surely I found two remaining tickets available to Comedy Sportz, an interactive, “Who’s Line is it Anyway?” type show for only $7 a pop. Perfect. Another thing from the list I can cross off without spending a ton of money.

An awesome local comedy club and you don't have to spend an arm and a leg.

An awesome local comedy club and you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg.

We quick grabbed dinner at a place down the street called Fireworks – a restaurant that serves up yummy pizza and knock-your-socks off sangria. With about 10 mimosas sitting in my belly, I figured a glass of sangria couldn’t hurt. If anything, it would probably just made the comedy show more enjoyable since I’m a tough critic in the joke department.

After dinner, Mike and I found the comedy club and we were promptly seated in the front row, dead center. The overly peppy girl who sat us asked if we had ever been before, we shook our heads no and she goes on to explain that it’s a ton of fun and starts using words like “family-friendly” and “wholesome.” I looked at Mike in a panic as I began to watch the seats slowly fill up with old people, a family celebrating their 9-year-old’s birthday and a group of girls wearing turtlenecks (NO LIE.) What!? Wholesome, comedy!? I wanted profanity, sex jokes, things that would make your grandmother blush if she heard them. I’m talking wildly inappropriate, Louis C.K.-style. They must have included the family friendly part in the fine print. I rolled my eyes and thought “at least I only spent seven bucks” and hoped that my sangria buzz would carry me through the night.

life is too important

A man wearing a referee outfit comes out on stage, runs down the rules as its team vs. team improv and tells us how we’ll be involved in the show, from offering suggestions to being a part of the skits. He then goes on to “warm us up” and for the next five minutes I’m making tiger faces, Martian noises and awkward hand gestures towards complete strangers. It was so bizarre and yet incredibly freeing to stop taking myself so seriously and let loose. I looked like a total ass but so did everyone around me.

The show was almost an hour and a half long and it was surprisingly hilarious. I found myself with tears in my eyes a few times, doubled-over laughing and fully enjoying being able to shout out funny scenarios for the improvers to perform – from wrestling bunnies in a piranha-filled volcano to the North Philly version of Candyland.

It’s amazing how much fun you can have when you let your walls down. With how crazy and stressful life can be, sometimes all you need is a cheesy knock-knock joke to remind you that life doesn’t always have to be so serious.

#9. have a girls’ weekend

First — yikes! Allow me to apologize for the lack of blogging this week. I haven’t fallen asleep behind the keyboard. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite. This week at work has been a whirlwind with exciting announcements that have required me to spend every waking minute and ounce of energy in important hearings, writing  and editing releases, pitching media like a mad woman and lining up media interviews left and right. All I can say is, thank GOD I had an awesome weekend with some of my favorite ladies before the avalanche of work stress came charging at me.

friendshipp

Now that I live a couple hundred miles away from my favorite people, when I do get to spend time with my closest friends, it makes every second that much more special. Which is why I wanted a girls’ weekend on my 213 in 2013 list. Alex and Lauren had planned to come down inauguration weekend (woops, total oversight on our part), so that Friday I pushed through work eager to get down to Union Station and pick them up for a weekend of revelry.

Once I got the call that their buses were in, I jumped out of the car and waved my arms signaling where I was. They started walking towards me and that’s when I noticed three people, not two, were making their way over. I squinted through the dark and in total shock and surprise, saw that they had brought my good friend Marianna with them. Ensue lots of high pitched, girly squealing, screaming and jumping. Turns out we would all get to help celebrate Marianna’s big 21st birthday together.

Poor Marianna couldn't even partake in the $1 margaritas because it was still an hour until her birthday...

Poor Marianna couldn’t even partake in the $1 margaritas because it was still an hour until her birthday…

After loading the car with their bags, we went over to Medaterra, a greek/Mediterranean restaurant in Woodley Park. They were serving up $5 martinis and $1 margaritas (that apparently tasted like cough syrup). My martini, whatever it was, tasted like spiked chocolate milk and was well worth the five bucks. We sipped, munched and chatted until the restaurant closed and made our way back to my apartment where we spent a few more hours sipping drinks and catching up.

Life is always made better by a cupcake. Or four.

Life is always made better by a cupcake. Or four.

The next day we went over to Cake Love — my absolute favorite cupcakery — and got Marianna a free birthday cupcake while the rest of us debated between the various flavors of tiramisu, nutella and peanut butter and banana. We took our cupcakes to the park bench outside of the outdoor skating rink and stuffed way too many calories into our gullets before crossing the street to paint some pottery.

Never take 4 OCD girls out to paint pottery together...
Never take 4 OCD girls out to paint pottery together…

I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that having myself and two other OCD freaks who aren’t super fond of children (Alex is the normal one) painting pottery surrounded by kids would be a good idea, but I went for it anyways. We squeezed into a small table, spent too long debating between rose pink and blush pink and then began the tedious task of painting our various pieces. Lauren freaked out about her lines not being straight (…they were abnormally straight), Marianna threw a fit about paint smears and I had a bitch fest about my uneven chevron stripes. Alex just enjoyed painting butterflies and polka dots and made the rest of us look like nut jobs.

My finished piece -- a reminder of my new attitude for the year ahead.

My finished piece — a reminder of my new attitude for the year ahead.

After finishing our pottery pieces and washing off, we went over to Nando’s Peri-Peri and enjoyed a pitcher of sangria and some delicious Peruvian chicken. We needed the sangria to calm our frazzled nerves from the children whining and the imperfect pottery paint jobs.

oro pomodoro pizzas

Stuffed full of chicken and wine, we went home, washed up, (I napped…because I’m old), and got ready for dinner at Oro Pomodoro (the same restaurant Mike and I took that pizza making class at). Another friend of ours, Kurie, met us over there and we all ordered various mouth-watering dishes — pizzas with shaved parmigiana and prosciutto, gnocchi with braised beef and wine, and the coolest dish of all — creamy risotto with porcini mushrooms and white truffle oil, prepared tableside in a 1200lb of parmigiana by the same chef from our pizza-making class, Michaelo! The waiter was from Naples and was absolutely adorable and charming and always made sure our glasses were full.

The coolest dish I've ever seen -- risotto prepared tableside in a giant block of cheese. It costs $1500!

The coolest dish I’ve ever seen — risotto prepared tableside in a giant block of cheese. The block costs $1500!

Once we were finished with dinner, we went home, freshened up again and went out to properly celebrate Marianna’s 21st at Blackfinn, a frat-esque saloon type bar in downtown Bethesda. We enjoyed a night of dancing to music so loud that it shook your core and left you deaf at the end of the night. The way it should be when celebrating someone’s 21st. I passed out around 5am — I couldn’t cut it anymore.

Our plans for brunch the next day got scrapped by a disgusting amount of traffic thanks to the inauguration so instead of cozying up at Matchbox, we ended up having to get Chipotle to go.

The weekend definitely had it’s hiccups but it was still a fantastic time with some of my absolute favorite people. A weekend full of laughing, and gossiping and reminiscing and painting and drinking and eating and dancing. And living. And loving every second of it. Because I’ve learned to not take advantage of my time with the people I care about anymore. It may be less frequently but it doesn’t lack in quality. That’s for sure.

this is your life – so live it.

live the life of your dreams

All too often, we let life get in the way of living. I know I do. I see dishes that need to be washed, bills that need to be paid, to-do lists that need to be finished. I see paychecks disappearing quicker than they come in as I struggle to pay back my disheartening amount of student debt. To pay for gas and car repairs and groceries and health insurance. These responsibilities can eat you alive… if you let them.

Until the start of this new year, I was being swallowed whole by myself – my stress, my anxiety and my self-doubt. My friends and family didn’t like the person I had become. And to be honest, neither did I. Instead of trying to blame it on my job or not liking my new city or the stresses of post-grad life, I realized I needed to take responsibility for my own unhappiness. I was at the center of it. The one creating it and letting it manifest itself. I was the problem.

So I decided to come up with a solution. The 213 in 2013 Project. A list of things I’ve wanted to do my entire life that I’ve been putting off for years because I was always so full of excuses. Because I was too afraid or told myself I didn’t have the time. That it could wait. Until I realized that it can’t – because this is life. It’s happening right now. And you only get one shot to do it right.

I’m three weeks in to my project and I’ve already crossed 8 things off my list and have a queue of others already planned in the weeks and months ahead. I’m waking up every morning so excited about the potential each day holds. I’m letting the unimportant little messes like a sink full of dishes sit on the sideline while I revel in the messes that will leave a permanent mark on my life like getting paint under my nails or pizza flour all over my clothes. I’m letting my DVR fill up with TV shows I used to watch while I’m out exploring new restaurants in the city or strapping on a pair of skates to go ice skating under the stars instead.

My biggest wish for this project, besides regaining my own passion for life is that others who are experiencing similar ruts will find their passion for life again too.

Stop making excuses.

Stop telling yourself it can wait until tomorrow, or next month, or next year.

Stop letting your fears hold you back. From trying something new, chasing your dreams and achieving greatness.

This is your life and the time is now.

The time to become the best version of yourself.

To challenge, push, fail, and succeed.

To unlock your potential.

To do more of what makes you happy.

To seize the day.

To live exquisitely. Boldly. Fearlessly.

To live.

#8. make a 3 a.m. diner trip

Back in the days of high school and college (that makes me sound so OLD!), a 3 a.m. diner trip was a routine thing on the weekend. After traipsing along the cobbled streets of Old City until closing hour at the bars, you’d walk the 10 – 15 blocks over to South Philly and cozy up in a booth at the South Street Diner to nurse your intoxication with a giant plate of greasy fries.

I never realized how drastically everything changes after starting a 9 – 5 full-time job. I once longed for Fridays as a chance to go out and get crazy with my friends. Now, I long for Fridays as a chance to throw on my pajamas, watch a movie and go to bed early to catch up on all the sleep I’ve missed during the week. My ability to pull off two or three all-nighters in a week has been annihilated and I now consider myself lucky if I can stay up past 11.

While I understand that this change in schedule is a reflection of me joining society as a responsible adult, sometimes it’s worth pushing through the heavy eyelids and mental fog to spend an entire night staying up with your friends – laughs and memories you wouldn’t have otherwise had if you were asleep. Which is why I included a 3 a.m. diner trip on my 213 in 2013 Project list.

Nothing hits the spot more than a steaming hot bowl of tomato soup.

Nothing hits the spot more than a steaming hot bowl of tomato soup.

After two hours of laser tag, Katie, Kevin, Mike and I all trucked over to Founding Farmers (one of my absolutely favorite restaurants of all time, might I add) to enjoy a homey, delicious dinner. After our tummies were full, we went back home for a night of revelry. And by that, I mean staying in, whipping up delicious cocktails and playing games all night. It’s one of the many reasons why I absolutely love hanging out with Katie and Kevin – we always manage to have a fantastic time at home in our pajamas without having to go out to a crowded club. That plus they both make drinks that taste WAY better than anything you could order at a bar and you don’t have to spend $100+.

Katie is one heck of a bartender -- whatever she put in this, it tasted like tropical paradise.

Katie is one heck of a bartender — whatever she put in this, it tasted like tropical paradise.

The first few hours of the night flew by as we sipped on our drinks, listened to music, played game after game and debated politics and the problem with the ever shrinking middle-class America (because we get smarter the more we drink.) After 1 AM hit though it was like time started to drag as my eyelids began to feel that all too familiar heaviness and I could tell Katie was starting to feel it too. But we were both so determined to relive the young-wild-and-free spirit of our college days and prove that we could make it all night. Cue more drinks and a game of truth or dare, and before we knew it the clock read 3.

We threw on our pajamas and coats and made our way outside as we began our trek to Tastee Diner down the street. It was eerily quiet outside and the fog was incredibly heavy, but Mike made a point to wake up anyone who might have been sleeping by singing at the top of his lungs as he danced down the street.

Photo credit to Katie who was awake enough to capture our exhaustion and crappy 3 AM diner food.

After getting to the diner, we curled up in a corner booth and everyone ordered their usual – something along the lines of eggs and bacon and I got my usual cheese fries and toast. At this point, we were all exhausted and barely buzzed, and if anyone has ever eaten 3 AM diner food – the only way to eat it and enjoy it is under the influence. I took one bite of my badly burnt toast and nibbled on an old, stale fry or two while the others finished up. I never wanted to go for the food anyways – I wanted to go for the experience. And a good one it was.

We walked back home and got in around 4:30. Everyone said their goodnights/good mornings and I laid my head down on my pillow as I pulled the blanket around my neck. I closed my heavy eyelids with the satisfaction of knowing that I was right… these are memories I never would have made and laughs I wouldn’t have shared if I had just gone to sleep.

#7. play an ultimate game of laser tag

As a kid, I can tell you there was no greater thrill than finding out one of your friends was having their birthday party at Laser Quest – ultimate laser tagging at its best. After wolfing down an entire Dominos pepperoni pizza, a 2 liter of grape soda and a pound of cake, you’d check that your shoe laces were double-knotted and make your way out to the “briefing room.” Every kid would come up with a ridiculous alias name (pretty sure I was always Mizz Kitty) and then you’d shake hands with your former-friends-now-turned-enemies, knowing that in thirty seconds it was every man for himself and you’d blast them with your laser gun.

I haven’t played laser tag since I was in 6th grade. The older you get, the creepier it becomes – the notion of an adult in a giant, dark obstacle course, ruthlessly laserbeaming a bunch of eight-year-olds that are a full two feet shorter than you. But, I’ve never been one to care about being awkward, which is why I included playing the ultimate game of laser tag on my 213 in 2013 list. Luckily, I had Mike and our two visiting friends, Katie and Kevin, to join me to make it less (more?) creepy.

Shadowland -- where all your lasertagging adventures come true.

Shadowland — where all your lasertagging adventures come true.

I found this place called Shadowland, which was only a short 25 minute drive away. From the outside it looked sketchy and the inside didn’t prove to be any better, but what laser tag place isn’t? As soon as we walked in the doors there were throngs of screaming children running in every direction and uninterested parents sitting on benches glued to their iPhones. We spotted a pretty large group of grown men (who looked pretty douchey), but were grateful to see other people taller than 4”.

After paying for our games, we filled out a “we won’t sue you if we trip, fall and get injured” paper and each of us carefully picked our aliases. Mike was Frosty, Kevin was Opaque, Katie was KT Sev and I was (maturely), Meow Poop.

Aren't I funny and clever? I clearly have the maturity of a teenage boy.

Aren’t I funny and clever? I clearly have the maturity of a teenage boy.

We made our way into the briefing room where I could barely pay an ounce of attention to the woman going over the rules and instructions because I was too eager to get suited up and unleash years of pent up childhood nostalgia. Row by row we were called into the gear room where we found our laser packs and got ourselves strapped in. As the 30 second countdown began booming from the speakers, I felt like I was in The Hunger Games and channeled my inner-Katniss knowing that if I had any chance of survival/winning, I’d have to find safety and stay away from the merciless children around me looking to bring us adults to our knees.

The doors slid open, our packs were initiated and before I knew it I had already used an entire dictionary of profanity (first rule broken) within the first 60 seconds as I was slaughtered by laser beams from my left and my right. Some kids named Babyface Killa and Fartz were out for blood and I was ranking an embarrassing 25th out of 30 only two minutes into the game (I later went on to finish 17th but my team, the Blue Team was a two-time champ.)

Soaked in sweat and out of breath -- I showed those kids no mercy.

Soaked in sweat and out of breath — I showed those kids no mercy.

I tried to remember some of my old techniques and began running up a ramp (second rule broken) before I tripped over my own feet, twisted my ankle and nearly slammed into a wall. Clearly I was no longer as limber and agile as I was once was, nor was I as fast or sly. But that’s alright, Katie and I made quite a pair smack talking kids half our height and age.

Two games later, ounces of sweat lost and several new bruises gained, I realized it was the most carefree fun I’ve had in really long time. While I can never go back to being a kid ever again, I know now that there’s nothing wrong with going back to visit every once in a while.

#6. throw a fabulous dinner party

I love entertaining and consider myself the ever dutiful hostess. There is nothing more satisfying than cooking up a delicious dinner, wrapping around a table with friends and enjoying each other’s company over a bottle (or six) of wine and a heaping pile of pasta. So, with the new friends I’ve been making, I thought it would be the perfectly opportunity to throw the fabulous dinner party I’ve been wanting to have on my 213 in 2013 list. It doesn’t get more fabulous than carbo-loading and wine-guzzling with a group of newly acquainted people.

One of my favorite parts about dinner parties? The table settings.

One of my favorite parts about dinner parties? The table settings.

The guest list in the week leading up to the party grew from four to six to at the last minute, seven people. The more the merrier, I figured. And luckily, as an Italian, I always cook too much food anyways so I ended up having more than enough.

After spending the entire afternoon cleaning every crack and crevice of the apartment, I started whipping up a feast. Sundried tomato, ricotta and pesto torta with garlic pita chips to munch on. Fresh oven baked bread to soak up olive oil and fresh herbs. Seven layer lasagna smothered with fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil and crushed tomatoes. Green beans with sundried tomatoes, garlic and shaved parmesan. And a delicious, creamy, chocolate peanut butter pie. (Sorry there aren’t really any pictures…was too busy stuffing my face and having a good time!)

Mmm, peanut butter pie.

I was admittedly a little nervous about having all of these newly-minted friends over to my apartment. Not only did I barely know them, but none of them really knew each other. It had the potential to be incredibly awkward but I was convinced that good wine and food would be the ultimate icebreaker. And, I was right.

For five hours we talked, laughed, ate until the plates were empty and drank until the bottles ran dry. I didn’t fret about the lasagna not presenting itself perfectly on the plate. Or the fact that we were all so crunched together at the table we could hardly lift our elbows. I didn’t sweat about the sink not draining or the large pile of dishes in the kitchen.

Just one of a few (several) bottles of wine from the evening.

Just one of a few (several) bottles of wine from the evening.

Instead I spent the night talking about books and movies and restaurants and life. Taking pictures of my cats, starting book clubs and planning vineyard tours. I got to know each of these girls a little better than I did before and realized how lucky I was to stumble upon each and every one of them because they help make this city feel more like home. Because they are incredibly funny, kind and wonderful people. Because it feels amazing to genuinely connect with a group of people after feeling disconnected for so long.

The wine was good. The food was delicious. But the people…the conversation…the memories, they were perfect.